Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Walking People

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The Walking People

by Mary Beth Keane

The Walking People
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  • First Published:
    May 2009, 416 pages
    May 2010, 416 pages

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Irish Travellers
Among themselves, Travellers refer to themselves as Pavees.  To outsiders they are often referred to as pikeys, knackers or tinkers (the latter two descriptions refer to traditional crafts in which they were employed, rendering animals and tin-smithing; the first two are considered particularly derogatory). In Irish, they are known as Lucht Siúil - the walking people - hence the title of Mary Beth Keane's novel.  Sometimes they are also referred to as diddycoys - which is a Roma term for a child of mixed Roma and non-Roma parentage; when used in the context of Travellers it refers to the fact that they are not "Gypsy" by blood but have adopted a similar lifestyle.

A 2006 Irish national census recorded 22,400 Travellers in the country, about 0.5% of the population (but many believe the numbers are larger), with 95% living in urban areas (these days, many choose to settle in one location but may travel for seasonal work). It is ...

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